A Vertical Succulent Garden With Integrated Outdoor Shower
December 1, 2013 by Robin Plaskoff Horton
Well known for Phytokinetic, the über cool green roof system he designed for city buses, Spanish landscape designer and friend Marc Grañèn also creates beautiful and functional botanical works of art.
When I visited Spain last summer, Marc shared with me his work in progress on a lush vertical succulent garden with an integrated outdoor shower. Designed for a client’s seaside residence on the Costa Brava northeast of Barcelona, the now completed living wall and shower was an exercise in trial and error that ultimately culminated in success.
A Seaside Garden Waterfall
Grañèn’s concept was to recreate the experience of showering under the lush flora of natural jungle waterfall. Always attuned to his native Catalonia’s generally warm and dry Mediterranean climate, his design included a variety of water conserving plants combined with a system that regulates, conserves, and reuses the shower water.
The vertical garden consisted of a grid of eight thin stainless steel mesh panels (50 cm x 50 cm x 5 cm each) onto which Grañèn planted a selection of sedums, echeverias, lampranthus, kalanchoe as well as “many cousins from the great family of grasses.”
To allow the roots to grow sufficiently to support the weight of the plants, he planted the panels three weeks earlier in the nursery. When the planted panels were ready for installation, he enlisted a local blacksmith to forge two vertical weight-bearing support railings on which to hang them.
Going With the Flow
Grañèn’s sustainable design utilizes a drip irrigation system and also incorporates an underground cistern tank which captures both the shower runoff and rainwater, storing and reusing both to irrigate a large portion of the property’s garden.
Regulating the shower’s water flow was initially a challenge. Rather than cascading in a soft stream as Grañèn intended, instead the water emerged at first in a turbulent stream, “so far away from my idea of an elegant green waterfall,” he recounted.
But Grañèn exercised the same perseverance he demonstrated when researching and designing his mobile Phytokinetic green roof system. He studied the mechanical and physical properties of the shower’s water flow, then gave it another try.
“I’m very happy and proud of it,” remarked Grañèn about the final result. “Not just because my client’s positive reaction was so astonishing. But now the water comes out in the thin cascading layer I dreamed of, dipping you in the middle of a jungle.”
Grañèn’s vertical garden serves as the property’s focal point, a slice of the jungle overlooking an expansive vista of blue sea, and is now also home to a frog. “And you know what?,” Grañèn told me, “last week I could hear it, so it still lives there!”